2018 was suppose to be the year I graduated from college, if I had followed a four year path. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The past four years have not gone the way I had planned in my mind. Instead, it has been filled with many bumps in the road, heartache, and milestones.
Graduating high school was one of my biggest accomplishments. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up with my class with how much school I was missing due to my medical condition, but with hard work, I ended up finishing with everyone else. But that wasn’t the biggest news – I got to WALK across the stage to receive my diploma. Now, that is HUGE.
After graduating high school, the plan was to go to a private Christian college – Biola University in California. I was so excited and ready to start a new adventure. Sadly, I needed to deffer as my medical condition continued to get worse. It was not sustainable financially to afford college and deal with the type of medical condition I had. I was devastated, but also somewhat relieved as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study.
My family and I ended up moving to Redmond, WA near Seattle for me to be closer to my surgeon. At the time, I tried to work as much as I could because I knew I could be going in for surgery at any moment. Still, not being able to afford community college, I saved for my next operation instead.
As many of my friends were finishing their first year of college, I was about to undergo my 9th hip surgery June of 2015. It was during that operation my surgeon stated their was nothing more he could do to save my hip. The only option I had was to undergo a total hip replacement at 19 years old. I knew the cost of a hip replacement was not cheap, so I did everything I could to work, even though my ability to walk was fading quickly.
Then one day, the pain became so debilitating, I could no longer move my leg without help. I was hunched over and unable to stand up straight. I couldn’t walk for more that 5 minutes, I wasn’t sleeping, and I would cry throughout my whole day because I was in excruciating pain. Life was passing me by. In October of 2015, I saw my surgeon. We both agreed it was time.
December 15th, 2015, I underwent a life-changing surgery, it was my 10th hip surgery. I said goodbye to the hip I had fought for, for so long. I said goodbye to the hip God gave me and I received a new titanium, plastic, and ceramic prosthetic. I had to relearn how to walk and learn how to live life with a prosthetic hip.
I endured hours, months, and years of rehab and still, I had not attended college. Finally, in the Winter of 2016, I took an online class. I excelled in it and felt like I could do this college thing, but that one class was all I could afford. Shortly after starting, I received the news that I needed another hip surgery. So there I was again, back at square one. February 2017, I underwent my 11th hip surgery, and once again, I had to continue on in rehab.
Often, I get asked about school and why I have not completed college yet, despite, all of my medical stuff. To me, that feels like a complete dig and insult. If you only knew… Let’s be honest, most people don’t really want to know; and yes, in their mind, I may be “behind,” but I have accomplished so much more. My medical condition has consumed my life for 9 years- and even more so, once I had graduated high school. College is not a race. Life is not a race; and my life does not need to be compared to others.
Yes, I full-hardheartedly would have loved to have graduated from college by now, but that wasn’t the case and I have learned to be okay with it. I have cried and gotten angry multiple times over this, but what good is that going to do? I am damn strong… and this warrior has endured and overcome far more than most will ever see in their lifetime. I am not a college graduate, but one day I will be, and when I am, I sure as hell know, there’s going to be a waterfall of joyful tears.
So – for everyone that has watched your class graduate this year without you. I hear you, I see you, I get it. There is no time limit and when it’s your turn – you’ll walk across that stage with the biggest smile and with a deeper appreciation with everything you have overcome along the way.
Graduate or not, wherever you are on this journey in life, I am so proud of you. Keep going – and believe in hope.